“If you think of me, don’t be sad,” Father Vincens called out to his friends, “talk about me and laugh.” That’s what he said in his obituary on Sunday well knew.
Until 2002 – at that time already 72 years old – the Catholic Salvatorian priest was prison chaplain in Tegel, for 30 years. And this work had shaped him, just as he had shaped this work.
When it came to the living conditions in prison, when it came to emergency pastoral care per se, he sat at the table in Berlin and spoke plainly.
“Father Vincens likes to bluster” was one of the numerous texts on his farewell. He was not a sensitive theologian with a diplomatic flair, but one who probably emulated the ideal of the worker priest, who not only lamented grievances, but tackled them wherever he could could, and also received criticism for it; He was sometimes called a “pastoral blacksmith”.
The death notice contained, still unusual in Berlin, a photo of the deceased, not a sad one, no, a cheerful Epicurean portrait with a big cigar in his right hand.
On August 31, 2002, after 30 years of service, the priest, who was nicknamed “Pastor Kugelblitz” because of his round belly, held his last mass in the Tegel prison. Even ex-prisoners came to see him say goodbye, and his prison director called after him that he had taken care of “social security” in prison and that he had given many inmates stability and culture with his “unbent axis of soul”.
Some criminals, it is reported, shed a tear when they said goodbye when the priest handed his “bandit”, as he always called it, a bag with tobacco, coffee, chocolate and a candle.
His authority was undisputed, for even in that final mass he snapped at a disruptive inmate as only he dared: “One more time and you’re out of here!”
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But even at the age of 72, he did not retire. He worked as a hospital chaplain in Lankwitz and was committed to emergency chaplaincy, which he invented in the first place together with the heads of the police and fire departments in Berlin.
And he got involved where he wanted to see God’s hand at work, blessing the 1,065 wooden crosses on the wall memorial at Checkpoint Charlie in protest against the imminent forced eviction in 2005.
And at the request of the tabloid press, he liked to get excited about technical questions, for example when the beating TV series priest “Lasko, the fist of God” wore a deceptively real monk’s habit and was thus guilty of abusing monastic official clothing. Then he slowly disappeared from public view. Father Vincens, 92 years old, died on June 15th in Berlin.